<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=915327909015523&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1" target="_blank"> Skip to main content
You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.
Edit

Meet Tommy, the ginormous Brown Swiss ox in Cheshire who has a growing TikTok audience

fred balawender feeds ox tommy grass

At Fred Balawender’s farm in Cheshire, Tommy the Swiss brown ox has become something of a celebrity on TikTok.

CHESHIRE — Describing Tommy, the ox that lives at Winterpast Farm in Cheshire, is a task of mythic proportions.

He looms over those who arrive at the farm, 1322 Windsor Road, for an audience with him; a tape measure indicates the distance from his hooves to his shoulders is over 6 feet. Adding on an enormous head and a pair of prodigious horns, he stands nearly 8 feet tall on four heavily taxed legs.

Fred Balawender and Laurie Cuevas, Tommy’s owners and caretakers, estimate he weighs about 3,000 pounds. The reason it’s an estimate, rather than an exact figure: they can’t fit Tommy in a trailer to get him weighed.

He’s got “a tongue like a big snake,” and when he speaks “it sounds just like a foghorn on a ship.” He’s been compared to a giraffe and Babe the Blue Ox from the folk legend of Paul Bunyan. In a field full of cattle, you’d think he was their king.

“Most animals that size could rip this barn apart,” Balawender said.

But Tommy is anything but a raging bull.

“He’s just a big baby,” Balawender said. “He’s a good guy.”

tommy the ox and farmer fred balawender walk on farm

At Fred Balawender’s farm in Cheshire, Tommy the Swiss brown ox has become something of a celebrity on TikTok.

Balawender gives Tommy a pat on his very long snout as he says it. He’s usually showering Tommy with such compliments, saying “he’s a good guy” and “he’s a good man,” in between calling him a “bonehead” and a “big baby.”

It all comes from the same place of affection, though: Tommy is part of the family.

“I’m the oldest and the wisest, but he’s the favorite,” Cuevas jokes. She’s Balawender’s daughter, referring to Tommy as one of his favorite kids.

Of course, Tommy has been around long enough to get familiar. The steer is something of an elder statesman, a 13-year-old Brown Swiss ox that dwarfs the other cows in the barnyard. He’s named after Tom Brady, the latest in a line of predecessors who were named after football players.

The gridiron love translates off the farm, too. Balawender has been a longtime emergency medical technician on the sidelines for the Hoosac Valley High School football team. He’s been a volunteer firefighter for 54 years and an EMT for 42.

Tommy’s reputation as a gentle giant is well-earned. As far as animals that big go, Balawender has never seen one so docile. He’s also never seen one as large or as smart — he’s been working with cattle since he was 11, so that’s no small feat.

fred balawender feeds apple to tommy the ox

At Fred Balawender’s farm in Cheshire, Tommy the Swiss brown ox has become something of a celebrity on TikTok after Balawender’s daughter began posting videos of her father’s relationship with the animal.

There are little things that Balawender does to keep him content, too. He’ll use a large shop broom to brush Tommy’s back. The main currency in the relationship, though, is apples. Tommy loves apples.

“He would take down as many as I put in front of him,” Balawender said. “That’s just Tom.”

fred balawender scratches giant ox with shop broom

To scratch his ox Tommy’s giant frame, Fred Balawender uses a shop broom in the barn of his Cheshire farm.

On top of that, Tommy eats a 5-gallon pail of grain and at least a bale and half of hay every day. There is no great secret to Tommy’s size or age; he just kept growing, Balawender said.

As Tommy’s caretakers, though, Balawender and Cuevas have also worked to keep him healthy. Last year, Tommy got seriously ill after consuming too much cornmeal. He had to have his stomach pumped and medicine administered — enough to try and cure an abnormally large bovine.

They weren’t sure if the ox was going to make it. Balawender remembers a moment where Tommy laid his head on his shoulder during the mess.

Through her TikTok account, @dairygoatmother, Laurie Cuevas has given the world a glimpse into life on the farm in Cheshire with her father, Fred Balawender, and his ‘favorite child;’ a 6-foot-5-inch tall, 3,000 pound ox named Tommy. Cuevas’ videos have racked up millions of likes on TikTok, and has made Balawender and Tommy a source of joy for people around the globe.

“That just tore my heart right out of my body,” Balawender said. “Like he was asking me to do something to help him.”

Tommy was able to recover after treatment — some of which was paid for from proceeds that he generated. Even now, Balawender comes to check up on him regularly and make sure he’s doing OK.

Parting with the old ox is unthinkable for Balawender; he’s part of the family, and notably, a good guy.

“He’s never gonna go anywhere — he’s a fixture,” Balawender said, before turning and shouting to him. “You’re a fixture!”

fred balawender scratches giant ox tommy’s face

Fred Balawender, 78, gives some love to Tommy, his 13-year-old Swiss brown ox who has grown to an impressive 6-foot-5-inches tall weighing around 3,000 pounds, at Balawender’s farm in Cheshire.

The sheer magnitude of Tommy the Ox is something that needs to be seen to be believed. He’s had a lot more eyes on him recently.

Tommy is a TikTok star. Cuevas recently began posting videos of Tommy and Balawender on her account, @dairygoatmother, originally not sure how well they’d catch on. Now, her most viewed video has over 13 million views. She’s got over 235,000 followers waiting to see what’s next for the ox with a heart of gold.

Cuevas vowed a long time ago that she wasn’t going to post anything that made people feel bad. With the state of current events in the world, there’s enough heavy stuff for people to see on their own.

Laurie Cuevas films ox and Fred Balawender on her phone

Through her TikTok account, @dairygoatmother, Laurie Cuevas has given the world a glimpse into life on the farm with her father, Fred Balawender, and his "favorite child" — a 6-foot-5-inch tall, 3,000-pound ox named Tommy. The videos have racked up millions of likes on TikTok, and have made Balawender and Tommy a source of joy for people around the globe.

Looking around at the picturesque farmstead in Cheshire, listening to her father’s vividly told stories and calling over the old ox Tommy, she realizes she’s got an embarrassment of riches.

“How could I keep this to myself?” Cuevas said.

laurie cuevas films fred balawender and ox tommy with phone

Through her TikTok account, @dairygoatmother, Laurie Cuevas has given the world a glimpse into life on the farm in Cheshire with her father, Fred Balawender, and his ‘favorite child;’ a 6-foot-5-inch tall, 3,000 pound ox named Tommy. Cuevas’ videos have racked up millions of likes on TikTok, and has made Balawender and Tommy a source of joy for people around the globe.

Especially now that everyone has a camera and the farming business is more and more visible, she said it’s important to show the positive sides of agriculture and the relationships farmers can form with their livestock.

“We’re like ambassadors for that message,” Cuevas said. “That there are good farms, and we do love our animals.”

Farming is a business that Cuevas is passionate about, and is glad to be able to do it again. In the 1980s, tough times hit the farm that Balawender tended nearby in Cheshire. The land was repossessed by the state, which dissuaded her from studying agriculture.

Cuevas worked 20 years at General Electric in global marketing, but spent most of those years wondering when she’d get to be back outside — like a cat in a cage, she said.

“We’re so lucky we get to do what we love,” Cuevas said.

laurie cuevas, tommy the ox, and fred balawender

Through her TikTok account, @dairygoatmother, Laurie Cuevas has given the world a glimpse into life on the farm in Cheshire with her father, Fred Balawender, and his ‘favorite child’ — a 6-foot-5-inch tall, 3,000-pound ox named Tommy. Cuevas’ videos have racked up millions of likes on TikTok, and have made Balawender and Tommy a source of joy for people around the globe.

With the newfound attention, Cuevas also finds herself fielding a lot of questions: predominantly, viewers online asking how tall Balawender is for comparison and questions about life on the farm.

Notably, some of the comments on the TikTok posts have seen Cuevas asked what “job” Tommy has on the farm, as oxen are typically trained to do work on a barnyard.

As far as Cuevas is concerned, the smile that Tommy puts on Balawender’s face is worth its 3,000 pound weight in gold.

“That’s his job,” Cuevas said. “Keeping my dad young.”

man and giant ox leave barn

With his "favorite child," a 13-year-old, 3,000 pound, 6-foot-5-inch tall Swiss brown ox named Tommy by his side, 78-year-old Fred Balawender leaves the barn at his farm in Cheshire.

Matt Martinez can be reached at mmartinez@berkshireeagle.com.

News Reporter

Matt Martinez is a news reporter at The Berkshire Eagle. He worked at Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, graduated Marquette University. He is a former Report for America corps member.

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

all